1111 Tasting Notes
Lapsang souchong in the house!
Oh yes! I don’t even know the last time we had an LS in the house, but it has definitely been quite a while. A looooong time. So when I was buying tea for the boss and me at work anyway, I decided to stock up since it was from the same shop. Husband agreed with my assessment that this was a necessity and therefore not a frivolous purchase. So 200g of LS and 200g of two other favourite fruity teas. That should last us a while, and I’m sure you will all agree with me that this was hardly excessive. Nothing new, only old favourites. Unfortunately we are still living in the Age of Frugality. (Although there are good omens regarding the Age of Frivolity at the moment. Well. Better omens than before, anyway. We’re keeping everything crossed here.)
So I’m having the first cup of my Perfect LS in a longer time than I can remember. It’s like an old friend come home and it beats the Lapsang Bohea Husband and I drank at the meeting with Roughage yesterday by several horse lengths. Not that there was anything wrong with that one. It just wasn’t this one.
Actually, while we were there, Husband asked me what the difference was between a lapsang souchong and a lapsang bohea. My initial reply was something along the lines of, “uuuuuhh…”
Eventually I came up with an educated guess that it probably had something to do with the leaf grade as I know souchong refers to the rougher older leaves on the bush. I figured it was possible that the bohea would have been made using younger leaves.
Turns out I was completely wrong in my guess, but the basis for it wasn’t far off.
Regular old LS does use the older leaves (unless otherwise stated, of course), but bohea refers to the Wuyi mountains where the type originates. For this reason lapsang bohea is often more expensive because the growing area is so small and the demand is growing.
So while many do consider bohea superior to any old lapsang (and it probably is too), it’s not really anything to do with leaf grade as such.
So there you see, Steepsterites! The sort of trouble you can get yourself into when you think you’re smart.
It has come to my attention that I’ve been quiet here recently. Well the last week or so was super busy in this household with various out-and-about stuff. On top of that we’re being very frugal with our leaves and have got really good at resteeping a lot as opposed to giving in to the temptation for something else. So I thought it was time for one of these teas from the Christmas box.
This one had me a little sceptical because of the lack of success for me with the first candy floss one. This one has fruit as well, though, which did help a bit. However, I’m still not getting anything that really says ‘candy floss’ to me. I’m just getting something generically sweet. This works better for me here than it did in the other one because it has the berry element. That makes it a fruity sweet as opposed to just a sticky sweet.
Is it nice? Yes.
Does it live up to its name? No.
But I don’t mind that. Niceness is more important than name accuracy to me.
This is the second one from 52teas that I’ve had that was named something with boo-berry. I can’t remember the exact name or ingredients of the other one as it was some years ago, but I think it was simply called boo-berry and it had blueberries and marshmallow root in it. I think that one was on a black base whereas this is on a green base, and really most of all this reminds me of that other boo-berry one, as it might have tasted on a green base. I remember that other one as being very popular in this household. I believe that was the one where we nommed our way through a whole pouch in just three or four days.
So two different candy floss themed teas and rated completely opposite. Funny, that.
And oh look, I completely forgot to post this! It was because we were going into town in the afternoon, where Husband and I spent a nice couple of hours taking tea with Roughage completely without all those awkward silences that I had feared. (Last time we met up with someone from elsewhere on the interwebs, I left the meeting hoping that the other person didn’t think we were just completely boring…)
Cardamom and lemon is one of my favourite combinations to put in pancakes. A teaspoon of cardamom and a squeeze of lemon juice. Last time I actually had real lemons, so I used the zest and juice of half a lemon. It was gooooood.
So therefore, I have fairly high expectations of this blend. I’m not certain about the green base but on the other hand, I’m always sceptical of anything that isn’t on a black base really. And I also don’t really think that this would work out very well on a black base, if I’m honest. So I’m going to trust that Frank knows what he’s doing here.
I must admit that as usual I forgot to smell the dry leaves. I might as well stop saying it as it should be fairly obvious that I’m having a rather hard time making a habit of doing this first. After steeping, however, the tea seems to be primarily lemon-y with something spicy underneath somewhere. This feels like a good balance to me, having the lemon out in front. Husband sometimes cooks with cardamom pods which are great in the dish where he uses them, but like pepper corns rather strong if accidentally chewed. I can’t immediately pick up anything of the base, but even so I feel a lot more confident about the choice of type. This definitely wouldn’t have worked as well on a black base.
So the aroma being spot on, how about the flavour? Here I’m getting a load of cardamom with the lemon a little more to the background. It’s still a good balance, though. It doesn’t seem too strong and spicy at all and it rather reminds me of pancakes. That pancake black blend that 52teas does; I tried that from the Christmas box last year and wasn’t impressed. THIS one, this is a pancake tea for me, because see first paragraph.
Once it starts cooling and developing a bit, the lemon comes out in spades and it takes on the same characteristics as was found in the aroma. Good. While both the aroma and the inital sip felt very well balanced to me, I do prefer this lemon first one.
Finally something out of the Christmas box that really struck my Happy Button.
I haven’t really read Steepster since at some point before Christmas, having been caught up in the holidays and avid reading of something else that was deemed a little more important to chew my way through at the time. There’s just no way I’m ever going to make it back through all of the Steepster posts I’ve missed. I’ve skimmed back a couple of days and I’m leaving it at that. If I missed anything important, please link me.
For the second tea of the new year, (the first being the orange pu-erh from Nothing But Tea, which Husband has developed an affinity for. You should have heard him try explain why earlier. He sounded like me on Steepster! LOL!) we had the next out of the 52teas Christmas box.
And once again I feel wary. I’m afraid I’ve had some sort of caveat with all the teas in box this year, although in some cases I’ve managed to overcome it. There are only two of the ones that are left that I’m actually looking forward to, so I suppose it’s been a bad 52teas year for me. I recall having better luck last year. Oh well, we can’t win them all, can we?
Anyway, the reason for my hesitation with this time is simply the fact that it’s chocolate flavoured and although I’ve had teas before with some sort of chocolate element to them, I’ve never ever found one that actually tasted properly of chocolate to me. I’m completely open to the idea of a chocolate flavoured tea, and the moment someone manages to make one that works I’ll be the first to swoon. But it hasn’t happened yet. The closest I’ve ever been are those black teas that have a strong naturally occurring note of cocoa. But those aren’t flavoured, and cocoa is not the same as chocolate.
It started out quite well. When I opened the envelope, the first note I noticed was something that reminded me of honey. A strong flower honey. This note persisted after brewing, and now also had a note of chocolate to it. Dark, heavy chocolate and in combination with the strong honey, the aroma of this tea struck me most of all as something akin to a dark chocolate toblerone. Husband thought it reminded him more of stepping into a heavily scented garden, which I consider to be in the same sort of category as my strong flower honey. There was a slight note of milk and of nuts as well.
When I took the first sip, it finally dawned on me why I’ve never managed to find a chocolate flavoured tea that works. When I get something with chocolate I expect a thick and slightly sticky texture, the sort of feeling one get from real chocolate melting on the tongue. When I then get a thin, watery mouthful of tea, it’s just not the same and it breaks the illusion of chocolate quite severely.
Add to this the fact that I might have rather different ideas of what constitutes as chocolate and what doesn’t than many of you Americans. Where I live, milk chocolate must contain at least 25% dry cocoa solids and dark chocolate at least 35% dry cocoa solids. Otherwise it’s not chocolate and is not allowed to be sold under the name of chocolate. The US rules for when chocolate is chocolate are based on how much chocolate liquor it contains, so it’s not directly translatable, but when reading about both it seems, if I understand it correctly, that the US will accept what amounts to less dry cocoa solids than the EU will. This supports my experience with Hershey’s Kisses which some undoubtedly well-meaning soul sent me once. They were quite, quite foul and had little to nothing to do with chocolate. Mind you, this was about a decade or so ago, so I suppose it’s possible that the quality of the product has been increased.
And all of this is why I don’t think this tea lives up to its name. At first there was the initial disappointment that once again a chocolate flavoured tea had failed to work. After having got over that, I could start paying attention to what it actually tasted like, and I have arrived at some very dark caramel. Slightly bitter, with a strong note of burnt sugar to it, but also with just a smidge of sweetness. I discussed this with Husband and while he hadn’t thought of that by himself, he agreed with my assession. It’s nice and all, but to us nothing in this cup even remotely resembles what we understand as ‘chocolate’.
I have said this a hundred times already but I really do prefer fruity flavoured tea for the most part. There are noteworthy exceptions to this rule, but what it all comes down to is that these various cake-y blends don’t really appeal to me. I can’t really seem to find the ‘cake’ bits either so they just strike me as rather gimmicky and bizarre.
Jello falls in that same category, if I’m to be completely honest. However, I have learned from previous experience to just disregard the jello bit and focus on the lime bits. Which neatly makes this a fruity flavoured green tea and there you are!
Due to various activities before Christmas and then being away over Christmas we’ve been rather stuck on these for a while. I’ve opened the rest so I know what’s to come, but I’m not allowed to drink them out of order, so we’re still on it.
It smells sweet and tart at the same time, and once again the thoughts stray towards the sweetie shop. We’ve had one earlier that was very bubble gum-y, and this one has the same sort of quality. A bit more winegum-y, though. Which I suppose fits relatively well with the whole jello concept.
The flavour isn’t so much a sweetie as the aroma, though. I can clearly detect an ever so slightly astringent and rather vegetal green tea underneath the flavouring, and I have to say that while the aroma wasn’t really pressing any of my hopeful buttons, the flavour rather makes up for it.
It tastes like a green tea with flavouring, not flavour with tea. The flavouring is fairly mild here, a little bit tart and a little bit sweet, but above all fruity. To my vast surprise, I’m rather enjoying this.
Season’s Greetings, Steepsterites!
We have returned from spending a few days at my parents’ house over Christmas and my father’s birthday on boxing day, so we’re a bit whacked. Dinner has been ordered and we’re just winding down from all the social, and me, I’m trying not to think too much about the fact that I have to work tomorrow. Christmas was relatively good, and ‘relatively’ has something to do with some bad news we got regarding the health situation of a family member. Not unexpected, but bad all the same.
Yeah, we got totally behind on the 52teas christmas box, but I’ve opened them all on their appropriate days, so at least I know what’s coming. I have decided, however, that it’s cheating to drink them out of order. We’ll do it in our own time, I think.
Right now, we’re having the second steep of this tea which my parents in law sent me for Christmas. Or rather, it’s from Max the Cat who owns my parents in law. Max the Cat appears to have more tea-fu than we had previously given him credit for. Unlike my mother who has run out of the good bags that I’ve provided her with and tried to buy something that was a better quality than your average Lipton or Pickwick. What she ended up with were bags of a different brand, yes, but containing unflavoured rooibos, which I don’t like, or a questionable sencha. Bless. Well, she tried. I shall have to make sure to restock the supply up there for the next time we go up.
Now, this one from Max the Cat. Not only is it a very non-traditional choice of tea for them, it’s also loose leaf! I expect my mother-in-law must have had help in the shop or something, because I would be highly surprised if either of them have ever even tasted this type of tea.
Blissful Blends is one of those wellness shops that sells ayurvedic body care products and aromatic oils and what have you, so their selection of tea is likely highly limited. I found a link to their ebay store and that one didn’t even have any tea on it at all. Probably all you pu-erh conneiseurs out there would turn your nose up at the quality of this one, but me, I’m highly pleased with it.
When receiving tea as a gift, people seem to have a tendency to have chosen things that are known dislikes, so for this one not to be was a bit of fresh air. Also, it falls on a dry spot, as I’m trying to limit frivolous purchases as much as I can these days. (We also each got some money from my grandparents which we have decided ought be used on frivolity as they are gift-money. Some of mine will likely be exchanged for tea. We’ll see. It’s hard to decide what to buy with them) So at this point, brand new tea is the awesomest stuff!
I can’t make much comment on the first cup as it was had shortly after we came home, and I was in bad need of some tea, some warmth and some kitteh, so it disappeared rather quickly without too much in the way of paying attention.
This time, however, I can report that it smells quite barn-y and kind of sweet. Something akin to honey, but not really. Otherwise it’s pretty much a default pu-erh smell.
Same goes for the flavour. There’s a slightly tart, fruity start to the sip. Something berry-y, I think. Then it gets that earthy pu-erh flavour and finishes on a sweet note, which is not really honey, but not really caramel either. Something sort of in between.
All in all, it strikes me as pretty mild in flavour, and if I had to make tea for someone who had never had pu-erh before, I would hesitate to give them a cup of this, with the information that they can get a LOT stronger than this one is.
I’ve made it Western style this evening, but I shall have to try and short steep it as well eventually. I suspect it won’t come off as quite so mild and friendly in those circumstances. I would be nice if I could get it to show a little more teeth.
But right now? Being tired, cold and hungry? It’s made of liquid diamond and fairy dust.
This one seems to be extremely popular. Very hyped on Steepster indeed, and I seem to recall there being some sort of a petition to have it made permanent. I’m sure I saw that, and I believe it was about this one.
So I was fairly certain all along that it was bound to be in the box somewhere. And lo, I was proven right.
I have to say though, that I don’t really understand the hype. To me this both tasted and smelled rather like toothpaste. With marshmallows in.
For me the spearmint was almost the only thing I could taste. I could detect some marshmallow here and there underneath and nothing whatsoever of the base. Primarily spearmint.
I’m not familiar with spearmint in anything except toothpaste and chewing gum, so I can’t claim to find it all that pleasant in other things. So for the life of me, I can’t find the appeal in this blend at all. Neither could Husband, who asked permission to discard.
Had it been peppermint instead of spearmint I think I might have enjoyed it better, but as it is, I think spearmint is just way too sharp a flavour for me in general.
(Seems I’m not having an awful lot of luck with the Christmas box this year…)
Okay, I totally get the concept of various different sorts of cheesecake. I find it an amazingly appealing concept to be honest. I likes me some cheesecake, yes I do indeed, but I’ve only ever been used to a plain white one decorated with a bit of fruit, so actually flavouring one with fruits and whatnots is a whole new concept for me.
I approve, oh yes I do.
Pumpkin? sigh I have had a number of pumpkin flavoured teas in the past, and not a single one of them have actually been something I can look back at and think ‘gosh, how nice!’ Pumpkin flavoured things have consistently had some sort of soapy flavour to it and I’ve never really been able to work out whether it’s a pumpkin aspect or me having had bad luck.
Caramel, however. Caramel is a very positive addition to the mix. Even if the pumpkin doens’t work out for me (again), perhaps it’ll be weighed up by the caramel.
On the whole though, these cake-y flavoured blends aren’t really the ones that appeal to me the most, and therefore it wasn’t that big a deal for me to reach the decision to declare 52teas generally Out Of Bounds. (Note, this has nothing to do with Frank or his company and everything to do with the fact that I consistently get to pay customs and imports fees on his parcels. I imagine this would be true no matter where I the US I bought from, and it’s really annoying to have to pay for my tea TWICE this way. With this Christmas box the fee was actually slightly more than the price of the tea. It has kind of stopped being funny and I’m not made of money.) This Christmas box is the frivolity I allow myself when it comes to this company.
Now, I have to admit I forgot to smell the leaf before brewing but afterwards it gave me a truly bizarre aroma indeed. Mulled wine? Mulled wine! Mulled wine and caramel pumpkin cheesecake has nothing at all in common that I can think of. Husband agrees with me on the mulled wine note and suggests it might have something to do with it smelling of cloves. I find myself rather wishing I had a glass of glögg now…
The flavour doesn’t give me this association, though. At first when it was at its hottest, I got a fair bit of caramel right at the front of the sip, followed by something rather subdued and vaguely recognisable as pumpking, but without that soapy note. What a relief, I thought.
Then the doorbell rang and the cup of tea got a short cooling off period while we dealt with that. It was the cat-sitter who’s looking after Charm and Luna over Christmas stopping by to pick up a key. I’d completely forgotten she was going to come, so I had to search in a mild panic for the stupid key because I couldn’t remember where I put it the last time. I found it though.
So coming back the cup, I find that it had developed a bit as tea are wont to do. Now there’s only a wee bit of caramel, mostly on the swallow, and a WHOLE LOT of soapy tasting pumpkin.
I can’t say I can find anything cheesecake-y in here at all though. Maybe a smidge of something that could be cream cheese, but that’s really it. I wouldn’t have thought of cheesecake on my own at all. Just pumpkin and caramel.
I’m feeling a bit torn as to how to rate this. While it was all hot and fresh and the caramel was the strongest note, I thought it was surprisingly good. At this point where there has been a completely role reversal, I’m less convinced. I think I’m going to give it around 70-ish and make it a compromise between the two.
Okay, the next tea! Again, I was sceptical as soon as I saw the label.
I almost always am when I see ‘Earl Grey’ and it’s not a black base. Earl Grey is a black tea. The end. Any other base with bergamot is simply bergamot flavoured. But then that’s just personal taste, really. And honestly, it’s also splitting hairs. Yes, I’m fully capable of seeing this myself.
Now, in the past I’ve tended to have a rather rocky relationship with Earl Grey or really most anything bergamot flavoured. Often it turns into a grey, dusty, kind of floral and somewhat attic-y sort of flavour for me, although there have been a few exceptions here. The smoky Earl Grey from Kusmi being a famous example. Gosh, that one is Teh Nom!
I also, these days, have a somewhat rocky relationship with white tea. I had a period where Bai Mu Dan was what I kept on hand as Celebration Tea. These days I get mostly a funny sort of squash-y, cucumber-y flavour profile from it which I don’t really care much for in my tea.
So what we’ve actually got here so far is a tea base I don’t much care for flavoured with a fruit I’m not a fan of.
Well. Minus times minus equals plus, right?
Then there is the black currant. I’ve been fairly fond of black currant flavoured tea for as long as I can remember. That flavouring has never really let me down. On top of that there was a black currant flavoured white tea from 52teas that was extremely pleasant. So looking at it this way I’ve got something which I know to be a hit with some bergamot in it.
Actually in spite of my misgivings about bergamot in general, the idea of the bergamot and black currant combination struck me as rather appealing. I would have just felt more confident about it if it had been on a black base, I think.
Now that I’ve gone around and been ambivalent about this whole thing for a bit, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I think it sounds pleasant.
The aroma is fairly close to how I remember that black currant flavoured Bai Mu Dan smelling only with a modicum of citrus added to the mix. Well that’s good enough.
The flavour was really much the same way, only it gave me a number of funny associations. First I thought it had a somewhat floral sort of note to it, but that went away pretty quickly. Then I thought it gave me a funny sort of plastic-y association, but that note did not go away. It stayed and after a few sips I was able to pin point where it was coming from.
It’s chewing gum. Not any particular flavour or kind of chewing gum, but that sort of feeling that you get in the mouth when chewing gum. I think it has to do with how the aftertaste is highly fruity and very long, as though it’s somehow sticky and has attached itself to my tastebuds. It’s like I’ve just been eating a lot of black currant and bergamot flavoured sweets. Winegums, maybe. Something that makes the mouth sticky.
And that brings me back to the base again, because now having tasted it, I still think I would have preferred a black base. This white one seems too delicate for this massive amount of fruit, and a black base might have been able to hold it up a bit better.
I am not having this under the best of circumstances, I must admit, because I made it upon coming home from work. Therefore I am gulping like my life depended on it (which it very nearly does!) and quite forgetting to pay attention. So today’s post might be a little superficial and stuff.
I’ll start with the beginning, namely when I opened the envelope yesterday. After having been sceptical for the first two days, this one finally got my hopes up for something that we would enjoy. Husband has a weakness for almost anything to do with lemon, so I was certain that he would like it. Me, I was struck by how much it smelled like a cross between a lemon surprise pudding and the sort of lemon pudding that my dad used to make when I was younger. (Unfortunately he can’t make it for Husband as gelatine is an important ingredient and Husband being vegetarian. He tried with agar-agar once, but it didn’t turn out very well at all).
After brewing it still has this lemon pudding medley smell. Lemony, creamy and sugary. I was pleased.
The flavour I was expecting was something a lot like these lemon puddings, and of course you just can’t do that in tea. You can get something that imitates a thick, creamy, custardy consistency, but you can’t actually get it. And the aroma was making me want that consistency.
I got over it though. You just can’t always get what you want.
The actual sip gave me initially green tea, then a funny flat note, and then a bunch of lemon-y lemonness. I don’t know what the flat note is. I can’t really describe it as anything else. It was just a feeling of flatness right there in the middle of the sip, like the first bit and the last bit weren’t properly connected. It didn’t make the tea unpleasant in anyway; it was just a bit odd, that’s all.
After the cup had been standing there for a bit and been allowed to develop slightly, the flat note gradually became shorter and weaker and after a few more minutes it was completely gone, so if I had just waited a little longer before sipping the first sip, I wouldn’t even have encountered it.
I always find it interesting how a tea can completely change character just by being left on its own for a few minutes. I’m especially noticing this in green and oolongs. Black teas do it too, but not to the same degree. They’re much more consistent in flavour most of the time.
Anyway, this did indeed live up to my expectations, if not completely then at least nearly, and Husband, predictably, gave the thumbs up as well.
I’m seriously craving a lemon-y pudding now, though! I tried my hand at aforementioned lemon surprise pudding earlier this year because I know it’s a favourite of Husband’s and it was for his birthday. It turned out really awesome (even with the dividing of eggs which is something I normally try to avoid as much as possible), so perhaps one of these days I’ll do it again.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few top secret items to wrap.